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review 2017-05-26 01:24
MADAME NHU: SOUTH VIETNAM'S MARIE ANTOINETTE?
Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam's Madame Nhu - Monique Brinson Demery

I came to this book in a rather indirect way. Some years ago, I heard a radio interview with the author, Monique Brinson Demery, in which she described her ongoing efforts to meet the mysterious Madame Nhu (1924-2011) and earn her trust. It was a fascinating story. One that stimulated some part of my memory that contained a scrap of knowledge as to whom Madame Nhu was and her role in the leadership of South Vietnam between 1954 and 1963.

The Vietnam War, though the American phase of it largely took place within my lifetime, I knew little about. Nor did I for many years have an interest in trying to understand that war. I was but an infant when LBJ first committed U.S. military forces to South Vietnam in March 1965. And by the time our POWs had been repatriated from North Vietnam and the U.S. had washed its hands of Vietnam, I was in elementary school. Another couple of decades would pass before I began to look into the factors, personalities, and events that led to Vietnam being engulfed in what was a civil war between 1945 (when the French - the former colonial master - returned, intent on reasserting its authority in Indochina) and 1975, when the Communists triumphed and reunified the country. Reading "The Best and the Brightest" by David Halberstam in the mid 1990s was my starting point.

Demery tells a story that gives the reader access into the life of Madame Nhu, her family (who had long figured prominently in Vietnamese history), Demery's own relationship with Madame Nhu (who could be both kind and intransigent when it suited her), and the history of Vietnam from the late 19th century to November 1, 1963 (when both Madame Nhu's husband and her brother-in-law the President of the Republic of Vietnam were murdered in a coup).

For anyone curious to know why Vietnam continues to impact itself upon the American psyche, this is a book well worth reading.

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review 2017-05-25 03:30
Me 262 Bomber and Reconnaissance Units - Robert Forsyth, Jim Laurier (Illustrator)
I finished this book a few minutes ago. It read like a daily diary, detailing the combat activities of the various Luftwaffe units which flew the ME 262 jet as a bomber/ground attack aircraft and in the reconnaissance role on the Western Front during 1944 and 1945. On the whole, a very good book. Fascinating stuff.
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review 2017-05-23 15:41
My forty-seventh podcast is up!
The Civil War Diary of Rev. James Sheeran, C.Ss.R.: Confederate Chaplain and Redemptorist - Patrick J. Hayes

My latest podcast is up! In it I interview Patrick J. Hayes about his edited edition of the diaries of Patrick Sheehan, a Catholic priest who served as a chaplain for the Confederate army during the Civil War. Enjoy!

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text 2017-05-19 19:30
RT Booklover's Convention 2017 - Day Two
Outfoxed by Love (Kodiak Point Book 2) - Eve Langlais
What a Lady Craves - Ashlyn Macnamara
Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War - Lauren Willig,Joshilyn Jackson;Hazel Gaynor;Mary McNear;Nadia Hashimi;Emmi Itäranta;CJ Hauser;Katherine Harbour;Rebecca Rotert;Holly Brown;M. P. Cooley;Carrie La Seur;Sarah Creech,Jennifer Robson,Marci Jefferson,Jessica Brockmole,Beatriz Williams,Evangeli
An Extraordinary Union - Alyssa Cole
Ten Days in August - Kate McMurray
Kissing the Captain - Kianna Alexander
Forbidden - Beverly Jenkins
The Lawyer's Luck: A Home to Milford College prequel novella - Piper Huguley,Piper Huguley
Tycoon - Joanna Shupe

Day One post

 

 

Wednesday (May 3rd) was the official start to the convention. I skipped the 7am work outs since I was still jet lagged, but I could only make myself get a few hours of sleep (a habit that lasted the entire convention). I hit up the coffee shop for a venti-sized tea and a piece of banana bread (I don't trust hotel catering to have enough food for all attendees) and met up with a fellow COYER group member and BL'er Lexxie (Unconventional Book Views)! After having breakfast with Lexxie, I went to the welcome breakfast; the guest speaker was Karen Robards. I thought she did an okay job opening the convention, but it seemed a lot of her speech was about previous, long ago RT cons and not much about this one. That was another theme - most attendees are long time RT convention goers and there is a feeling of cliques and talking about the old times. Then the staff at RT each had to take the mic to talk (boring)...which authors in attendance used that time to start pushing their books to the readers at their tables. Lots of aspiring and current authors writing "dark, gritty" romantic suspense is my take away.

 

First reader event I went to was Trope Bingo. The organizers did not plan to have so many people attend this event and ended up scrambling to set up more tables. Then more people showed up after another reader event closed due to running out of supplies. I had fun at the Bingo and met some readers that wanted to talk about what their favorite/least favorite tropes were.

 

Next I went to the Maple Syrup and Mounties reader event. This was one of the best reader events of the convention! Funny, smart ladies (authors Viola Grace, Lucy Farago, Eve Langlais, Ashlynn Macnamara, and Mandy Rosko) who organized and prepared for the crowd. The swag was pretty great too. FYI: Eve Langlais is pretty damn proud that she was able to put a moose shifter romance on the best seller list (Outfoxed by Love) and Ashlynn Macnamara is proud of her books' butt covers (Eton Boys Trilogy). These authors not only enjoyed interacting with the audience (it was a rowdy quiz type of event), but they seemed to really enjoy being around each other. One of my highlights of the convention.

 

Lunch time and then I stood in line for the one reader event I was most looking forward to - the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books Reader Recommendation Party! It definitely lived up to my expectations. I ended up winning a raffle, so I took home a short story collection centered around World War I called Fall of Poppies. I have been eyeing this book for some time now and when I saw it on the prize table I had to grab it. The Bitches were as lovely and funny as they are on the blog and on the podcast. Another big highlight for me, as it was truly about the readers talking about books with other readers.

 

Some books recommended:

The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne (historical set during the French Revolution)

The Iron Duke Series by Meljean Brooks (steampunk)

Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs by Molly Harper (paranormal)

Blood on the Earth (Soulwood #1) by Faith Hunter (spin-off of the Jane Yellowrock series)

Roller Girl (Lake Lovelace #3) by Vanessa North (f/f contemporary featuring a trans woman as one half of the couple)

When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare (historical)

Bedchamber Games by Tracey Anne Warren (historical)

The Glassblower Series by Petra Durst Benning (historical)

Pages of the Mind by Jeffe Kennedy (fantasy)

The First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (sports contemporary romance)

Rites of Passage (Tulsa Thunderbirds #4) by Catherine Gayle (sports contemporary romance with HIV+ characters)

A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #1) by Amanda Bouchet (fantasy)

Anything by KJ Charles pretty much

 

 

The SBTB party was still going but I left after winning so I could make it to my first author panel, Welcome to Americana, featuring Alyssa Cole, Kianna Alexander, Kate McMurray, Beverly Jenkins, Piper Huguley, and Joanna Shupe. What a great discussion! Everything from the state of American historical romance (in terms of what is being published right now) to how they go about researching the history for their stories. Kate McMurray has a really great blog post on her website in regards to POC/LGBT+ people in historical romance not being present in mainstream historical romance and that readers really have to search to find the authors that are writing outside the mainstream. Most importantly, American historical romance is oversaturated with cowboys and mail order brides - and these authors are trying to expand American historical romance to include POC/LGBT+/urbanites. Everyone on the panel had some very thought-provoking things to say about racism, sexism, homophobia, and historical romance writing. Shout out to reference and research librarians for providing plot bunnies and historical research for the authors.

 

Took a much needed break from all the people, then headed to the Petticoats & Pistols party. Here the organizers actually had a big enough room that attendees could walk and mingle about without being crushed. I enjoyed the outfits the authors and cover models wore and the design of the party. Probably my favorite social event of the convention - it was low-key enough to take in at my leisure, but high-spirited enough to build excitement for the attendees. Here I got to meet Merry Farmer, a personal favorite of mine and talk with Joanna Shupe about her panel I attended. Shupe encouraged me to try my hand at writing historical romance. Maybe....someday.

 

After the party I was tired from being around so many people all day, so I got dinner and headed to my room. I didn't expect or intend to make this a very historical romance intensive day, but it is my favorite subgenre. So many new to me authors to try.

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review 2017-05-19 03:02
The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story - Diane Ackerman

Ugghhh. This book.

So, the premise is amazing, right? This couple saved the lives of over three hundred people during the Holocaust! But you'd never know it, reading this book.

This story that is so amazing is buried deep under a mountain of details. If you ever get your hands on a time machine and you would like a map for when you vacation in this area/time of Poland, the first chapter will let you know where everything in that town is. Extensive researching is great for writing a historical novel to get the feel of it just right. But you should not put all of that research into the book. I really could not care less exactly what type of beetles some random guy had in his collection. That's not why I'm reading this book.

It's offensive, really. This story is so fascinating and inspirational and so important to tell, but it's so bogged down by irrelevant details that I was intensely bored throughout the entire book and I only remember them helping even a handful of people. The book really doesn't do the story justice.

Furthermore, Antonina herself is a zookeeper, so calling her "the zookeeper's wife" is kind of insulting.

I'm hoping the movie is better.

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